DETROIT – Doctors around the world are reporting an increase in cases of stress-related hair loss, showing just how deeply the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting people emotionally.
“Shock hair loss” is a condition that causes some people to shed large amounts of hair after a stressful event.
“When there’s a big stress, whether it’s physical, emotional, you get sick, this can be things like financial stress, medications, anxiety, really any big shock to your system, can push up to 50% of those hairs prematurely into your shedding phase,” Cleveland Clinic Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal said.
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It’s caused when stress-related hormones and neurotransmitters change the normal hair growth cycle.
Khetarpal said when people experience something extremely stressful, it can take two to three months before hair actually starts to fall out.
Doctors believe they’re seeing more hair loss complaints now because it’s been a few months since the start of the pandemic.
Shock hair loss is not uncommon. Pregnant women experience a form of it a few weeks after childbirth. Most case resolve themselves within about six months as the hair grows back.
If the hair doesn’t grow back, over-the-counter hair loss drugs such as minoxidil are an option for some. Trying to reduce stress and following a healthy lifestyle can also help.
“Exercise, take care of yourself, make sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet,” Khetarpal said. “We know things like protein are the building blocks for our hair, our skin, our nails, so make sure you’re eating a diet that has a higher protein.”
As the body recovers from stress, it’s important to make sure hair has the nutrients it needs to rebuild. Antioxidants, multivitamins and biotin might also help strengthen hair.